Instructions On Petitions For Existing Vacations Within A Local Platting Authority
These instructions outline the process for vacating an easement managed by the Department of Natural Resources, when the easement lies within the jurisdiction of a local platting authority. Section-line easement vacations are the most common, but this process applies to all easements requiring DNR approval to vacate, including RS2477 rights of way and easements to and along public waters under AS 38.05.127.
A. A petition form, supplied by DNR, containing the signatures of all the landowners directly affected must be completed.
B. In order to ensure that the public interest is also addressed at the local level, DNR requires that the applicant apply for the vacation with the local borough or municipal platting authority. The borough considers local concerns and transportation infrastructures. The state considers these issues statewide. The applicant may apply with DNR before the local platting authority but, the Division of Mining, Land & Water will not issue a Final Finding and Decision until the conditions of approval from the local platting authority are received. This step is not required where there is no local platting authority. If time is critical, it is advisable to apply with the local platting authority at the same time you apply with DNR.
C. Required Submittal:
In addition to A and B above, obtain or prepare a map or plat of the area showing the following information:
- Preliminary plat clearly illustrating the location of the proposed vacation and proposed alternate means of access. Petitioner needs to include statement as to whether they are aware of any current or historical use of the easement proposed for vacation and the alternate access and whether they are constructed.
- Map showing property boundaries. If property has been subdivided, then provide copy of an unaltered recorded plat containing the property.
- Map or as-built identifying existing structures on petitioner's property.
- Map identifying existing section line easements, utilities and dedicated rights-of-way within a one mile radius or greater surrounding the petitioner's property.
- Map identifying available access to lands that are affected by the proposal.
- Aerial photograph (if available) and/or topography map showing contours.
- It is not required, but it may also help the decision process if the petitioner specifically addresses, in writing, the following points concerning the existing easement and the alternate route:
Underlying Land Ownership
Current Public Use Patterns
Practicality of Use
Land Management Policies
D. A RS 2477 or section line easement vacation, must comply with Chapter 26 SLA 98, AS 19.30.410. It states that agencies of the State “may not vacate a right-of-way acquired by the state under former 43 U.S.C. 932 unless:
1. a reasonably comparable, established alternate right-of-way or means of access exists that is sufficient to satisfy all present and reasonably foreseeable uses.
Alternate Means of Access
Before the vacation of a RS 2477 or section line easement is approved, the petitioner must satisfy the department that equal or better access is available. “Equal or better access” means access protected by an easement of record that is adequately wide for the purpose, and at least equally usable considering length, type of terrain, and level of improvement, as the easement to be vacated.
The vacation of a public right-of-way involves giving up of a public right in favor of the landowner. DNR will not approve a vacation unless it determines that the action is in the public’s interest.
E. Mail the above information and a check for the application fee to the Survey Section, Division of Mining, Land, & Water, 550 W 7 th Ave, Suite 650, Anchorage, AK 99501-3576.
II. Filing Fee and Advertising Cost:
The petitioner must pay the application filing fee and the cost of advertising the public notice. The petition must be accompanied by a check for $750 made payable to the Alaska Department of Revenue, for the filing fee. After the department determines the cost to advertise the public notice in a newspaper, you will be notified and must then submit to this office a check made payable to State of Alaska.
III. State Action:
RS 2477 vacations must be approved by both this department (DNR), and the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT/PF). DNR will forward a copy of the petition to the DOT/PF. It will be the applicant’s responsibility to meet their approval requirements.
The Survey Section will review the petition for completeness and verify the state’s jurisdiction under AS 40.15.305(e), AS 19.30.410 or AS 29.35.090 for this area, and that fees and costs have been paid. A Preliminary Finding and Decision will be released. Then public notice will be published. After the close of the 30-day written comment period, the Director of the Division of Mining, Land & Water will approve or disapprove the petition. This written Finding and Decision will be subject to a 20 day appeal period before the vacation plat or document may be signed.
The department’s decision of whether to vacate is based on consideration of the comments received by mail and E-mail, the recommendation of the local platting board, DOT/PF, and research by DNR staff. In addition to the comments received, DNR staff will also consider the existing easement and the possible alternate access in terms of underlying land ownership, land management policies, current public use patterns, and practicality of use. These factors establish the scope of the department’s administrative review and finding.
Occasionally, the department may require a field investigation to be conducted by DNR staff. This inspection is to determine the current existing use and condition of the area proposed for vacation, and the adequacy of the proposed alternate route.
IV. Vacation Document:
A. If the petition is approved, at the petitioner’s expense, a survey and plat must be prepared by an Alaska Registered Land Surveyor and submitted for review and approval. These submittals are subject to a review fee of $200.00.
B. The petition approval becomes null and void if a survey plat is not submitted and recorded within 18 months of the Final Finding and Decision effective date.
C. DOT/PF approval of the final vacation document is required.
Option other than vacating: An owner of land affected by an unplatted RS 2477 right-of-way may request the department’s approval to relocate the right-of-way elsewhere on that owner’s land. The department will approve the realignment if the realignment provides access reasonably comparable to the original, does not affect land in other ownership, and connects to the original route where it enters and exists the landowner’s land. Such a realignment of an RS 2477 right-of-way within a parcel of land does not constitute a vacation under this section. But it does require that a plat showing the realignment be filed.